BBVA says it is the first bank to use Visa's cloud-based Host Card Emulation specifications to initiate contactless payments through an Android smartphone app.

The bank's customers in Spain can start making virtual Near Field Communication payments through an updated version of the BBVA Wallet application this week, and BBVA plans to extend the service to customers in the U.S., Mexico and Chile later this year.

With Visa's HCE specifications, the bank can retain customer payment credentials through cloud storage rather than on the customer's handset. HCE bypasses use of the phone's secure element and eliminates the need for the customer to obtain a special SIM card.

The BBVA Wallet has more than 200,000 users and operates with any current-generation Android phone equipped with NFC, the bank says in a June 30 press release.

The bank says it will offer NFC contactless stickers for customers who use a non-NFC phone.

In addition to contactless payments, the BBVA Wallet app provides customers with instant notifications for each transaction, finance options for purchases, discounts and offers.

"Our employees and some of our customers, who are the most active users of BBVA Wallet in Spain, are already using this latest technology," Mehmet Sezgin, the bank's global payment systems director, states in the release.

BBVA's move to the cloud-based HCE payments is an example of how HCE functionality is helping banks get to market faster with mobile contactless payments, says Jeremy Nicholds, Visa Europe's executive director for mobile, in the release.

The technology "also has the potential to integrate with other forms of mobile banking functionality, supporting better money management," Nicholds says.

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